The Binding by Bridget Collins

By Natasja Hellenthal


Imagine you could erase your grief.
Imagine you could forget your pain.
Imagine you could hide a secret.

Emmett Farmer is working in the fields when a letter arrives summoning him to begin an apprenticeship. He will work for a Bookbinder, a vocation that arouses fear, superstition and prejudice – but one neither he nor his parents can afford to refuse.

He will learn to hand-craft beautiful volumes, and within each he will capture something unique and extraordinary: a memory. If there’s something you want to forget, he can help. If there’s something you need to erase, he can assist. Your past will be stored safely in a book and you will never remember your secret, however terrible.

In a vault under his mentor’s workshop, row upon row of books – and memories – are meticulously stored and recorded.

Then one day Emmett makes an astonishing discovery: one of them has his name on it.


I was so fortunate to have been given this book in its hardcover version. The cover is simply stunning! It really makes you want to read and cherish the book. Especially considered this is a novel about bookbinding they were spot on with the design! The story is just as magical and spell-binding.

‘The Binding’ by Bridget Collins is a #1 bestseller for good reasons and the price on kindle is reduced at the moment, so get it while you can! It is set in an alternative, rural England in a time much like the late 18th century, though with magic thrown in.

It’s told in a first-person narrative and follows Emmett Farmer, a young man who is sent to an old, solitary Binder to become her apprentice. Books are forbidden as they all are real lived experiences from real people who, once sold, lose these memories, so they are kept hidden by Binders or sold on the black market and bought by those in power to abuse, torture or used as blackmail to ruin those without money or status. These books become like high-priced vaults. A buyer can go to a Binder to sell their memories or have unspeakable traumatic memories removed. For some it’s a salvation to have bad memories being taken away from you, for others it’s the last resort to be able to pay the rent. Too many visits to a Binder leaves someone hollow inside, emptied of the memories that made them unique and life worth living for.

Emmett learns he will become a protector or these books and turns out to be a gifted Binder. There are many questions raised which kept me guessing and wanting to read on. Why was Emmett rejected by his family and why does a customer called Lucian Darnay look so familiar and why is he so drawn to him? As Emmett learns his new trade and begins to settle in, he makes an astonishing discovery: a book with his name on it.

I absolutely loved this book! It started out like most other young adult fantasy books I’ve read with the reluctant hero versus grumpy teacher, and dark and moody at first, but it is not! The teacher turns out to be a gem and the main character more and more likable as well. There is the forbidden gay relationship twist as well which was tastefully and romantically done. This book is so much more than a coming-of-age novel and can be read by many readers. There are so many mysterious things going on, it makes you turn the pages to get the answers!

It is breath-taking and an absolute gem. The plot is intriguing with the only books in a world being not fiction, but real-life memories and forbidden, the world-building was not overly detailed as this book focusses more on feelings, the characters realistic and the mood of the book intense and wonderful. The writing is simply beautiful. The range of emotions is wide and portrays tenderness and deep affection. I could not put it down and when I did, it wouldn’t leave my mind. To me, those are the best books!



Natasja Hellenthal is a bestselling published author of ten novels to date. Based in Maureillas, she writes thought-provoking, speculative fiction and has started her own book cover design company. Follow her here.

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